Wednesday, October 31, 2012


How could I not share this - the bringing together of two of my great loves, food and sci-fi. It's all in an article titled Down on the robofarm, by James Mitchell Crowe in New Scientist, No 2888, 27 October 2012. The article is a short review of developments in agribots, farm machinery with robotics that are already  doing some extraordinary things - farm machines that talk to each other, like a John Deese system that lets one farm machine, like a harvester, call another to help with the next stage of the process, like unloading the grain. Then there's the German firm Frendt that has developed a system of paired tractors where one is manually driven and the other goes along next to it doing the same things that the first one is doing.

They are looking at developing machines that can track along a crop row, identify a single weed and hit it with a micro-dot of pesticide or ones that can do regular checks on each plant and give it just the right dose of fertiliser to spurt its growth. The long term projection is developing farms designed specifically for agribot farming - smaller fields, crops planted in grids instead of rows.

But what about the social costs - the labourers thrown of the land, the growth of agribusinesses who will be the only ones that can afford to own and operate the agribots! Aren't I one of those who goes gooey eyed at organic, small holding, ma and pa produced crops!

Guilty as charged. But these are the futures I've read about all my life and I have a childlike glee in hearing they are being realised.